Guide to Shopping for Vintage/Antique Home Decor Items

Careful shoppers can find amazing deals on home decor items if they are willing to consider items that aren’t brand-new. Plus, not only will you  save money, you’ll help prevent perfectly functional home items from being dumped in a landfill.


Craigslist is the great melting pot of home goods, ranging from homeowners downsizing to estate sales to scammers trying to sell over-priced, low-quality products. What’s more, many sellers don’t describe their items in detail (and sometimes don’t even know what they have!), making it difficult to do a text search to find what you want. Instead, you will probably need to read through many ads to find the right product at the right price. Once you find what you’re looking for, though, the prices are often very reasonable, with sellers often just trying to get items off their hands and not to get the most money out of the deal.

  • Set up Craigslist RSS alerts with specific phrases you want to watch for, and you will be immediately informed when a new ad is posted with these details.
  • Install one of the many Craigslist browser plug-ins that make the Craigslist website a little easier to navigate and quickly find what you’re looking for.
  • Use this advanced Craiglist search website to use “exact phrase searches” and OR or AND requirements, even if you aren’t comfortable with the syntax.


Ebay can be a good resource if you’re looking for hard-to-find collectible or designer pieces. However, you will need to proceed with caution, and do due diligence before you commit to buying anything, because there are many scammers and thieves on eBay. They may send you an imitation piece but charge authentic-level prices, or never send the item at all. Also, many sellers make a living re-selling products on Ebay, so you may see items being charged a huge markup and be able to find a better price elsewhere.

Resale Shops

Many resale shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army, among other smaller stores, are charities that sell donated items to raise money for the charity’s functions. Most resale shops consist primarily of clothing of all kinds and small home goods like picture frames and lamps. The bargains can be incredible or so-so, and items in the same category usually get assigned similar prices, though their quality or true market value may be vastly different. You can also find dilapidated furniture that may be barely hanging together or just need a little bit of cleaning, or re-working to be a viable addition to your home. Other resale stores, like Thrift Town, buy the best donations that charities have received and re-sell them, so you can expect these stores to have higher quality but correspondingly higher prices.

  • Most resale shops have certain days during the week or month where every item is further discounted, often by 40 or 50%. If you can’t find details online, call the store and ask for more info.
  • Some charity shops, such as Goodwill, offer reward cards that provide store credit for spending a certain amount of money.

Garage Sales

Garage sales tend to have the lowest prices of all the sources for home goods, but they require a time investment with no guarantee that you find anything you want, even if you stop by half a dozen garage sales. Some garage sales are listed on Craigslist ahead of time, and go into detail on the items available, but knowing that there will be a couch for sale isn’t much help if you don’t even have a picture to go on.

  • Use this helpful yard sale map website to help you plan out your garage sale trips.
  • Sometimes sellers will let you buy before the garage sale date if you contact them early and don’t try to haggle too much on the price.

Antique Stores

antique showAntique stores often have high quality collections, and some only sell items with a particular theme or era. You can find real treasures here, but you probably won’t get a huge bargain. Antique store owners are usually collectors themselves, and have a good idea of what their inventory is worth. On the positive side, they often have connections with other antique dealers within their niche, and will usually be able to help you locate a specific item you are looking for, such as a specific style of chair or collectible item.

  • Most antique stores have “set” prices listed, but the price may be more flexible than you think – it doesn’t hurt to try! Knowing the market value of similar items will help you make your case for a lower price.

Antique/Craft Shows

Many antique and craft fairs are huge, multi-day events that attract tourists from all over. You can’t beat the sheer quantity offered at most antique shows, but generally it’s best to avoid the more local and “crafty” items that are meant to appeal to the tourists and are often over-priced. To avoid getting overwhelmed when going to one of these shows, make a list of the items you’re looking for, and also have a general idea of how much you’re willing to pay so you don’t pay too much in the excitement of the day. Most shows will list their vendors, so you can have a decent idea what you will find at the shows. There are many quality items to be found at shows like these, but usually even more “junk” that you will need to sift through to find something worthwhile.

  • Seasoned showgoers know to bring a backpack or rolling cart, (along with layered clothing and water bottles) to the shows so that they can easily carry their purchases over long walks while staying comfortable.